Rookie contenders separated by 90 points heading into Championship Sunday

Dener Barbosa is ranked 10th in the world standings. Photo: Andy Watson / BullStockMedia


  • The Top 3 rookies in the Rookie of the Year race are separated by 90 points.
  • Jose Vitor Leme can potentially win the Rookie of the Year if he wins the World Finals event average.
  • Ryan Dirteater is trying to become the second rider in PBR history to repeat as World Finals event winner.

In This Article

LAS VEGAS – Here are three things we learned from Round 4 of the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena beyond the historically close world title race.

Rookie of the Year contenders separated by 90 points heading into Championship Sunday

2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa may not be in the world title conversation, but the rider with the second-highest riding percentage in the PBR is using the law of averages in his pursuit of the 2017 Rookie of the Year title.

Barbosa picked up his third ride of the World Finals Saturday night by gently riding Uncle Wormy for 84.5 points.

The No. 10 man in the world standings heads into Championship Sunday a full bull ahead of fellow Rookie of the Year contenders Claudio Montanha Jr. and Cody Teel in the event average, but this rookie race is far from over.

Barbosa only leads Montanha Jr. by 31.67 points and Teel by 90 points with two rounds left in the season.

“I am really happy because Claudio and I were really good buddies back in Brazil,” Barbosa said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “Whoever wins, it will be great.”

The two were in tightly contested Ekip Rozeta, a Brazilian rodeo association, championship races in 2012 and 2013.

The same year that Barbosa won the Ekip Rozeta over Montanha was when Teel took home top honors in the PRCA.

The 2012 PRCA champion is 2-for-4 in Las Vegas this week with two big-time rides to keep himself in contention for the Rookie of the Year.

Teel rode Nailed for 87.25 points in Round 4 after previously covering Smooth Sailing for 85 points two nights earlier.

“I am not worried about anything other than staying on all of my bulls,” Teel said. “This group of bull riders is really exciting. If you can win at the Finals, you can say all of the best bull riders is here. This is such a cool atmosphere and I just glad to be a part of it.”

The 23-year-old drafted Jammin Jackson’s Handsome Jeff (15-8, BFTS) for Round 5.

Barbosa will face Gambini (11-1, BFTS) and Montanha elected to take on Big Tex Walk Off (58-8, BFTS).

Leme continues amazing World Finals run; 2017 PBR Brazil champion could steal Rookie of the Year award

2017 PBR Brazil champion Jose Vitor Leme used his second consecutive 90-point ride Saturday night to surge into not only the World Finals event lead, but also potentially into the Rookie of the Year conversation.

Leme won Round 4 with 90.25 points on Big Dutch in another sensational performance.

If Leme were to go on to win the World Finals event average, depending on what Barbosa and the other Rookie of the Year leaders do on Sunday, Leme could earn enough points to supplant the five rookies currently ahead of him in the standings.

“It’s hard to explain, I don’t have the words to explain,” Leme said with Paulo Crimber translating. “I don’t think I realize yet how big and important this is because it’s just grand. I just thank God for blessing me and I’m just praying and really focusing and working hard to finish like that and win the event.”

Leme can become only the fifth rookie in PBR history to win the World Finals event average.

2016 World Champion Cooper Davis went 4-for-6 to win the 2015 World Finals event as a rookie. He joined previous rookie winners Jody Newberry (2003), Luke Snyder (2001) and Ronnie Kitchens (1996).

Leme also could become the fifth rider, and second Brazilian all time, to ride all of his bulls at the World Finals if he goes 2-for-2 on Sunday.

The other riders to be perfect at the Finals include last year’s winner Ryan Dirteater (6-for-6), 2013 and 2009 World Finals event winner J.B. Mauney (6-for-6, 8-for-8), 2014 event winner Silvano Alves (6-for-6) and 2001 winner Luke Snyder (5-for-5).

None of them were making their PBR debuts like Leme has this week.

Leme selected More Big Bucks with the first pick of the Round 5 draft and could once again hit another 90-plus points Sunday afternoon.

Jess Lockwood won Round 3 with 90.25 points on More Big Bucks.

“I want to win,” Leme before grinning.

Dirteater storming back into contention

Ryan Dirteater began the 2017 World Finals by being disqualified in the bucking chutes in Round 1 when the chute clock expired.

Since then, Dirteater has been flawless in Las Vegas, including an 87.5-point ride on Pick-It Construction’s Find Jesus in Round 4.

Dirteater has ridden three consecutive bulls inside T-Mobile Arena to head into Championship Sunday ranked fourth in the event average and in contention to repeat as World Finals event winner if Leme stubs his toe.

If you don’t count his disqualification, Dirteater has yet to buck off at the World Finals since the PBR moved the yearend event from the Thomas & Mack Center.

One of those rides came aboard Minion Stuart last year in Round 5 for 87.25 points, and now the two will meet again after Dirteater selected the Canadian bull with the third pick of the Round 5 bull draft for Sunday.

Mason Lowe rode Minion Stuart on Saturday night for 87.5 points.

“That is a good pick,” Dirteater said. “I have been on him the past two years at the Finals and rode him. Mason just rode him tonight. He is a great bull, feels good and everyone rides him.

“Mason was 87.5 on him, so you still can be 87-88 on him.”

Two years ago, Dirteater rode Minion Stuart for 86.5 points in Round 5 of the Finals.

Dirteater would become the second rider in PBR history to win back-to-back World Finals event titles if he is victorious Sunday.

Robson Palermo is the only rider to have accomplished the feat so far.

“Last year was really good, 6-for-6,” Dirteater said. “That first round DQ this year. I didn’t let it bother me. It just really made me mad. I came back the next day focused and hungry. Now I am just starving and want to finish this Finals out.”

Injury Updates

Dakota Buttar and Troy Wilkinson are doubtful for Round 5, according to Dr. Tandy Freeman, after sustaining concussions in Round 4.

Leme could become fifth rookie to win the Finals (11-3-17)

A week that began with the tightest world title race in PBR history may end with a historic performance from an unexpected performer.

2017 PBR Brazil champion Jose Vitor Leme continued his stellar debut in the PBR by riding Mudshark for a career-high 90 points and a third consecutive ride at the World Finals.

“I didn’t think it would be that quick (for my first 90) because all of the 90-point bulls are really rank,” Leme said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I have been riding really great, but I thought it would take longer than that.

“I am really, really happy and it is amazing to do it here.” 

The 21-year-old heads into Round 4 on Sunday evening as one of only two riders a perfect 3-for-3.

Leme trails event leader and world No. 1 Jess Lockwood by only 7.75 points in the event average.

If he can outperform the 2016 Rookie of the Year in the final three rounds, Leme may be able to become only the fifth rookie in PBR history to win the World Finals event average.

2016 World Champion Cooper Davis went 4-for-6 to win the 2015 World Finals event as a rookie. He joined previous rookie winners Jody Newberry (2003), Luke Snyder (2001) and Ronnie Kitchens (1996).

However, none of them were making their PBR debuts like Leme.

“That guy is great,” Davis said. “He might be the best rookie I have ever seen, and that is saying a lot. He seems poised and really collected, especially just getting here and riding that well.”

Leme has relied on his fellow Brazilians in the locker room, including three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, to coach him through the American bulls that are so foreign to him.

Alves took Leme to lunch at the New Yorker on Saturday morning along with fellow PBR Brazil champions Luciano de Castro (2015) and Dener Barbosa (2016).

The future PBR Ring of Honor inductee told Leme he had a great bull in Mudshark and to continue to take a deep breath before climbing into the bucking chutes.

“I was watching the videos and looking at the bulls I could be the most points on,” Leme said. “I asked all of the riders, and they told me I could be a bunch on him. I really like the way he bucked and his style. I thought I could fit him well.”

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Leme bruised his right hip when he was kicked after the ride, but Leme said the injury is minor. 

It has been night and day for Leme in terms of his comfort level in Las Vegas since he first landed in the United States exactly seven days ago.

Leme, who won the international invite at the 2017 Velocity Tour Finals last weekend, admitted what started as a nerve-racking week, including a 10-hour plane ride from Ribas Do Rio Pardo, Brazil, has evolved into a dream come true.

His nerves have also evaporated into excitement and confidence.

“For sure, the first weekend I was really nervous,” Leme said. “I didn’t know how that was going to be. At the World Finals, I was nervous too because I didn’t know how I was going to do it and if I was going to start well.

After I got two down, it just got me really confident and I know I can do it,” Leme said. I am going to continue doing what I am doing.”

Montanha Jr. and Barbosa have experience going head-to-head

Claudio Montanha Jr. is no stranger to battling it out against 2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa.

The two were in tightly contested Ekip Rozeta, a Brazilian rodeo association, championship races in 2012 and 2013.

Montanha now hopes he can defeat Barbosa at the Finals this weekend and win the 2017 PBR Rookie of the Year award.

The 28-year-old closed the gap on Barbosa for the second night in a row by riding Machinery Auctioneer’s Crazy Horse for 87.75 points and 50 world points.

“It is very important for to me to ride this bull because I always wanted to ride this bull and I was looking for him,” Montanha said with the help of Lucas Teodoro translating. “I really want to win Rookie of the Year title because you can only win it just once. That is why I am doing my best.”

Meanwhile, Barbosa stormed right back with 87 points on Happy Camper to tie for ninth place (7.5 world points) in the round.

Montanha trails Barbosa by 31.67 points for the rookie lead.

“We have been friends since 2011,” Montanha said. “He is like a brother to me. Dener is very focused. We were racing for another championship in Brazil in 2013, and I have a lot of respect for Dener.”

Montanha, Barbosa and Leme were joined by fellow rookies Brennon Eldred (89.25 points on Cooper Tire’s Brown Sugar) Luciano de Castro (88.25 points on Milky Jones) and Ramon de Lima (85.5 points on Fire Rock) on the Round 3 scoreboard.

Lee gets qualified ride amidst his PBR record 16th Finals; No. 500 will have to wait for Mauney

While the rookies and young guns dominated the headlines Friday night, 2004 World Champion Mike Lee picked up career ride No. 525 amidst his own PBR record.

Lee is competing in his 16th consecutive PBR World Finals this week. Riding on bull riding’s biggest stage has yet to get old for the Texas cowboy.

“It still feels good and doesn’t get old,” Lee said. “Especially when it pays so good. This is my whole life. I have really never known anything other than this. My favorite part is all the fans that show up, know me and support me.

“That is pretty cool.”

2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi is competing in his 14th consecutive Finals and rode Hammer Down for 83 points and career ride 612.b

Marchi heads into Round 4 on Saturday night 2-for-3 and 10th in the event average.

Lee and Marchi had to wait another night to welcome two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney into the prestigious 500 rides club after Lester Gillis slammed Mauney in 4.31 seconds.

Mauney will look for the 500th ride of his career Saturday night against Cartridge (3-0, BFTS).

Injury Updates

Matt Triplett (left shoulder) and Mason Lowe (right elbow) are planning to undergo surgery in the offseason, but both have been trying to valiantly battle through their injuries this week in Las Vegas.

According to Freeman, Triplett and Lowe aggravated their previous injuries during their Round 3 buckoffs and are questionable for Round 3.

Cody Campbell (bruised right leg) and J.W. Harris (strained right pectoral muscle) are probable for Round 4 after sustaining injuries Friday night.

SweetPro’s Bruiser takes the lead in World Championship race (11-2-17)

Defending World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Bruiser has been the bull all of the riders have wanted to draw in the PBR this season.

However, Bruiser didn’t give Emilio Resende much of a shot Thursday as he exploded right outside the bucking chute and sent the 2012 Rookie of the Year to the ground in 1.91 seconds.

It was the second fastest buckoff of the season for Bruiser and his second highest bull score.

“It was just that first jump and I was pretty happy,” stock contractor H.D. Page said. “He is always the same. He just walked in there like he was going to go to sleep, but that is just his deal. He is cool as a cucumber.”

Resende was left shaking his head in amazement.

“He bucked more today than any time,” Resende said. “Four or five times ago he would blow and jump up. Today, he leaved a little bit and pretty close (to the chutes). He bucks easier normally. I can ride him, but today he was real good.”

Bruiser was marked a World Finals-best 47 points and takes over the No. 1 ranking in the World Championship Bull race after Pearl Harbor bucked off Lachlan Richardson in 5.97 seconds for 45.25 points.

Bruiser leads Pearl Harbor by .17 points with each bull next scheduled to buck Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.

The 2017 PBR World Champion Bull is determined based on the Top 8 outs during the Built Ford Tough Series regular season plus two outs at the World Finals. The bull with the highest average bull score across those 10 outs will be crowned the World Champion and earn the $100,000 bonus.

Bulls drop their lowest bull scores if they have more than eight outs on their record.

“He didn’t get into this position by doing any tricky stuff. He got here because he is a bucking bull. It is all up to him. I will give him some fresh water, some good feed and hay and I am going to flank him and let him work it. That is all I can do.”

Montanha Jr. tightens up Rookie of the Year Race

Rookie of the Year contenders Dener Barbosa, Claudio Montanha Jr. and Cody Teel all picked up qualified rides during Round 2, but it was Montanha taking the biggest step forward.

Montanha tied with J.W. Harris for second-place (152.5 world points) in the round by covering Shownuff for 87.5 points.

“I got that bull and I knew he was going to come away from my hand and I kind of got everything set up to go away from my hand and when he hipped himself and came around the right it helped me a lot," Montanha said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. "I am really happy to win second in the round tonight.”

At the conclusion of the round, Montanha anxiously stared at the official’s scorer screen to figure out where he was standing in the Rookie of the Year race.

Montanha heads into his Round 3 matchup against Machinery Auctioneer’s Crazy Horse (15-14, BFTS) only 74.17 points behind Barbosa for the rookie lead.

Barbosa earned his first qualified ride of the week by becoming only the third rider to cover TLW’s Big Cat.

The 23-year-old floated to the 8-second mark and an 86.25-point score.

“I feel really great because I put my rope a little bit to the middle of him,” Barbosa said. “I thought he was going to go to the right, away from my hand and he came into my hand and kind of surprised me. I had to work a little harder to get it and make it.”

Barbosa finished tied with Silvano Alves for sixth place (42.5 points) in the round.

It was only a year ago that Barbosa made a stunning 87.5-point ride on Stone Sober during his PBR debut.

Barbosa drafted Happy Camper (0-0, BFTS) with the sixth pick of the draft.

Teel – the 2012 PRCA champion – picked up the first ride of his World Finals career by riding Smooth Sailing for 85 points and a 10th place finish (five world points).

The 25-year-old takes on Tractor Tippin (9-6, BFTS) in Round 3 and is only 112.5 points behind Barbosa.

“The bull didn’t really have his day,” Teel said. “He kind of got caught hanging in one spot and he usually turns back a little quicker, but he had a lot of power and he had me on my fingertips. I was glad the rosin was sticky and help me stay in place to finish the ride.”

Harris overcomes torn ab muscle to ride Beaver Creek Beau

Four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris has decided he will be getting surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle following the conclusion of the 2017 World Finals, but that isn’t going to stop him from trying to make some money in Las Vegas.

“Why not come?” Harris said. “It is the biggest stage in bull riding. I don’t know why you wouldn’t. I don’t care if you have a broken leg. If you can get on, you come here.”

Harris became the eighth rider in 63 BFTs outs to conquer the 2,000-pound bovine athlete to tie with Montanha for second place.

“Man, I loved it,” Harris said. “I am sure I am going to hurt like a son of a gun in a little bit. I knew what I had to do. It was just a matter of me just going out there and getting off my ass and doing it. With him, you have to ride the inside and just go to the front and not worry about any of that other stuff because he is all up and moving away from you. He drops that outside shoulder and is where he kind of gets everybody.”

If not for Aaron Kleier turning down the opportunity to compete at the Finals, Harris, who began the week ranked 36th in the world standings, would have been sitting at home in Texas.

Now he is up to 31st in the world standings.

Harris hopes to finish within the Top 30 of the world standings to guarantee himself eight BFTS events in 2018 seeing as he will miss roughly 2-4 months because of his upcoming surgery.

“It is better if bulls go away from my hand because I have nothing to anchor it if I do get to far off in there,” Harris said. “I just have to try and stay in the middle.” 

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

Countdown to 500: Mauney gets ride 499 in return (11-01-17)

Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney didn’t say he was nervous heading into the 2017 World Finals on Wednesday night, but his 86.75-point ride on Polar Vortex was certainly one that he called a relief.

Mauney was making his return to competition less than four months after Dr. Tandy Freeman performed what was thought to be season-ending surgery following Mauney’s career-threatening shoulder injury at the Calgary Stampede this past summer and he did so in impressive fashion.

The 30-year-old looked far from rusty on Wednesday night, but maybe only a tad bit timid on his first bull back outside of one practice bull 106 days following surgery.

“That was a relief,” Mauney admitted. “When you’ve been off as long as I have, I got on that one bull the other day, which he wasn’t a whole lot, but you know when you come here it’s not going to be as easy as that practice pen. So it was kind of a relief.

“I thought, ‘I can do it.’”

The ride was Mauney’s 499th career ride on the Built Ford Tough Series and he is one ride away from joining 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee as the only riders to reach the prestigious 500 mark in PBR history.

“I didn’t even think about it, that’s just a number to me,” Mauney said with a shrug.

One thing that was more than just a number was his 86.75-point ride on Polar Vortex.

Throughout the evening Mauney looked far from nervous.

Instead, Mauney was in the locker room bobbing his head to some rock music and gnawing on a piece of a gum on the back of the bucking chutes before riding his bull to a massive ovation.

It was another memorable moment in Mauney’s 12-year career, one that has been littered with World Finals magic every step of the way.

RELATED: An inside look at Mauney’s dedicated return to competition

The ride itself will not go down as one of his best, but it was a reminder that Mauney always finds a way to defy the odds when people begin to count him out.

Freeman had originally told Mauney he would miss at least six months after he inserted 13 anchors and a screw into Mauney’s completely destroyed right shoulder (free arm) on July 18.

106 days after the surgery and Mauney made the 8-second mark at the World Finals.

“Whatever kid growing up wants to be a bull rider needs to be a cowboy and be tough every time you nod your head,” Mauney said of the importance of his ride.

Mauney wasn’t the same free-arm whipping son of a gun he usually is, but he was still once again one of the best riders at the Finals, finishing the round in seventh place.

“Shoulder being strapped down kind of helped it when he went away from my hand,” Mauney said. “He kind of tipped me into my hand, but I can’t whip it like I used to, which comes in pretty handy when they go that way.”

Mauney has drawn Boot Jack (39-2, BFTS) for Round 2 on Thursday night.

“That’s a hard to ride bull,” Mauney said. “He steps ahead and around to the right. Like I said, I can’t whip my free arm behind me, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Kimzey picks up qualified ride in PBR World Finals debut

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but three-time PRCA champion Sage Kimzey continues to make waves this week in Las Vegas.

Two days after earning his first trip to the PBR World Finals by winning the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals at South Point Arena, Kimzey picked up his fifth qualified ride in as many days by riding Bushwacked (87 points) for a sixth-place finish.

The ride is the first of his PBR career at the BFTS level.

“I’ve been on a few Bushwacker calves and they all are really good,” Kimzey said. “I like that up and down. The one that kind of likes to yank on you. Those are the easiest bulls to ride really, so I was really excited to have him and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Kimzey received a chest spot from PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert on the back of the bucking chute, while fellow Oklahoma native and 1992 PRCA champion Cody Custer pulled Kimzey’s bull rope.

The 23-year-old said it was “pretty to cool” to have a familiar face, and childhood idol, like Custer pull his rope as he dealt with his first nerves and emotions of competing at the PBR World Finals.

“You know there’s nerves in the hotel getting over here, even walking the blue carpet,” Kimzey said. “Whenever I get that rigging bag out, I lay my stuff out, get around, and that’s me getting in my element. So all that goes away. Then you get ready and you have time to think, so (the nerves) come creeping back in. But whenever I get on the back of the chutes seeing the bulls, a couple guys get bucked off; I was like, ‘Well, it’s bull riding.”

Kimzey heads into Round 2 a little more familiar with T-Mobile Arena, but he will face a stiffer test than he did in Round 1 with Siouxper Stinger (3-1, BFTS). 

Round 1 winner Jess Lockwood rode Siouxper Stinger for 93 points last year in Bismarck, North Dakota, while Fabiano Vieira most recently covered Chad Berger’s bovine athlete for 89 points in Bismarck this summer.

“I know that you can be a lot of points on him,” Kimzey said. “He’s not easy, bucks around to the left, and I don’t care which way they go. I like the nasty ones. He’s a good old rodeo bull.”

Vieira asks for autographs before finishing Round 1 in second place

Fabiano Vieira spent the majority of the afternoon asking for autographs inside the locker room from all of the riders competing at the World Finals.

The 35-year-old had a big grin on his face as he went around with a copy of the 2017 World Finals souvenir program and asked all of the riders, including Mauney and reigning World Champion Cooper Davis, to autograph their bio pages.

“I have good friends here,” Vieira said. “I love every bull rider at the PBR. These are my good friends. I love these people. I will put this in my house, my best friends of 2017.”

Vieira’s 88-point ride on Inferno in Round 1 also may end up helping him put a World Finals event average victory belt buckle inside his home as well.

“I rode pretty good with these young guys,” Vieira said. “This bull was a good bull. He bucked off Luciano (de Castro). He bucked off Dener (Barbosa). He tried to pull me inside the spin and I stayed in the middle. I had fun. It’s nice. I love the PBR.”

The seven-time PBR World Finals qualifier finished second in the round to keep himself not only in contention for the event average, but possibly a world title if the Top-4 riders in the world falter later in the week.

Vieira earned 180 points toward the world standings to move to No. 7 in the world standings.

He trails world leader Derek Kolbaba by 2,089.17 points heading into Round 2. He has drawn Mystikal (17-1, BFTS).

Vieira is focusing in on winning his first PBR World Finals.

The Perola, Brazil, native finished in fifth-place two years ago.

“This is my dream,” he concluded. “I put it in God’s hands. I have a good bull for tomorrow. He’s bucked me off one time and another time he went left. I don’t know. I put it in God’s hands.”

Injury Updates:

Stetson Lawrence is listed by Freeman as questionable for Round 2 after aggravating his torn right groin during his 84-point ride on Up and In.

Lawrence said following the qualified ride he arrived at the Finals lucky to be even close to 50 percent healthy.

“It hurts,” Lawrence said. “It just hurts a lot right now. I am trying to tell myself I am 85 or 90 percent, but I am probably 50. I have two months to heal up after this so I will get the most money I can right now because you don’t get the opportunity to ride at the World Finals every weekend.”

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